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Zootopia: A Year End View

December 29, 2016

At this point, it readily appears that Zootopia will be number four in worldwide box office take for films released in 2016. Rogue One is likely to secure first place (it’s already at 654M after two weeks), pushing Zootopia down from third to fourth, behind Rogue One, Captain America: Civil War, and Finding Dory. (Moana seems to be fizzling out, and I’m not sure it will even crack the top 5)

So Zootopia will be #4.

This is remarkable. I’d even say amazing.

This means that Zootopia has, very handily, cemented itself in this top 5 while being the ONLY film in that top 5 that is a new property – a whole-cloth brand new original film with zero reliance on an existing franchise.

In addition, Zootopia’s box office worldwide take is just a smidge down from Finding Dory, a mere 4M or so. It’s also only about 12% down from the current top placer (and soon to be #2 with Rogue One’s ascension), Captain America.

Which is to say, without relying on previous pent up excitement, demand, knowledge, fans, or anticipation, Zootopia rocketed up the charts to hang out with the so-called “big boys and girls”. *

It also garnered the top spot on Rotten Tomatoes rankings for 2016, at 98% Fresh.

And it did this with a very modest marketing push.

When I was visiting the Walt Disney Studio lot, I struck up a conversation with another attendee, and we got to talking about Zootopia. She mentioned she didn’t go to see the film while it was in theaters, because as she put it, “the way Disney was marketing it, I thought it was one of their filler movies.”

And maybe that is exactly how Disney thought.

If so, they were mistaken.

All this long windedness is really to underscore and illustrate that Zootopia’s success – that #4 position in amongst “bigger” films – comes solely from its own merits. Zootopia’s success is born through the strength of its story, the strength of its characters, and the strength of its storytelling. Zootopia is a movie filled with panache, with wit, with love, with beauty, with transformation, with delight, and with gravitas. It is a movie filled to the brim with possibility. Zootopia touches us dearly. In a movie about animals, it reminds us who we can be as humans.

It is the triumph of what good storytelling can be, and what it can do.

Judy, Nick, Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, Cory Loftis, Josie Trinidad, Clark Spencer, Matthias Lechner, David Goetz, Jennifer Lee, all the voice actors and actresses, and everyone at Walt Disney Animation who worked on this film can stand proud with the art they have wrought through their hard work and dedication.

When Zootopia opened, few may have been aware of it. By the end of its long run, the world knew. **

Zootopia is not a movie that will ever leave us. We will carry it, and all it embodies, forward with us into 2017 and beyond.

 

* – Yes, I will be the first to admit that box office take does not necessarily equal quality. Quite the contrary, there are many, many examples of movies that are terrible on a whole host of levels – cinematically, story, narrative, action, excitement, story-telling, etc – that still manage to rake in gazabillions of dollars. As do their sequels. Even if it’s crappy titillation (and titillation can be great and wholly worthwhile, if it’s well-done titillation), it still gets butts into theatres. But here, Zootopia doesn’t play up the usual and safe/default tropes to entice viewers. There are only two major action sequences, with minimal violence and only one explosion (used more for humour than anything). There’s no sexy sexy imagery or action (nudity is used, again, more for humour). No giant set pieces. It’s not a typical “blockbuster”. Yet it nearly matched the very explosion-heavy, punch-heavy, skintight suit-heavy, giant set piece-heavy, and readily known next chapter in, Captain America (and it beat the pants off BvS, Suicide Squad, Deadpool…). And, on the other end of the spectrum, it’s also not the typical “kids” fare of either princesses, which can rake in millions from familiarity and little girls, or fart jokes (can I just celebrate that Zootopia tripled the Angry Birds Movie take?). Zootopia was a whole different animal. (Ha! Pun semi-intended…)

** – With more marketing and support, who knows what heights Zootopia could have reached… and what greater impact might it have had? We can only imagine.

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